Questionable Motives

March 25, 2010

What is science and why is denying scientific consensus a sign of guanocephalopathy?

Filed under: commentary,Conspiracy,Criticism,Science — tildeb @ 9:17 am

Excerpts from Respectful Insolence:

In fact science is all about coming to a consensus, but it’s about coming to a consensus based on data, experimentation, and evidence, a consensus that has reproducible results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. After all, what is a scientific theory like the theory of evolution or Einstein’s theory of relativity but a statement of the current scientific consensus regarding a major scientific topic? What is peer review but quality control (making sure the scientific methodology is sound) coupled with testing new science against the current consensus to see where it fits in or where it exposes weaknesses? What is science but attempting to forge a consensus regarding theories and statements that most accurately describe the universe in a useful and predictable way?

Of course, questioning the consensus is often necessary in science. Indeed, it is critical to scientific advancement. However, there is a huge difference between questioning a current consensus and producing the data and experimental evidence to show that there is a real scientific question and JAQing off about science. The latter, raising spurious or already answered questions about a scientific finding or theory one doesn’t like, belongs to the province of cranks and denialists, and it is what they are very good at. The problem is that they aren’t very good at realizing why their questions are not worthy of the attention that they think they are. A lovely example of this showed up on the Discovery Institute’s propaganda arm, its version of Age of Autism, so to speak, namely Evolution News and Views. In it, the Kent Heckenlively of the creationist set, the ever excitable Casey Luskin, penned a typical bit of silliness in which he asks the question, When Is it Appropriate to Challenge the “Consensus”?

If Casey had two neurons to rub together, he could answer the question in two sentences and echo how scientists would answer the question: When you have an actual scientifically valid reason, based on science, evidence, experimentation, and observational evidence, to think that the current scientific consensus about something is in error, then it is appropriate to challenge the scientific consensus. When you don’t, then it isn’t.

It’s perfectly acceptable to challenge such a consensus, but if you don’t have the goods in the form of evidence, experimentation, and data to show that the consensus is in serious error, there is no reason for scientists to take your challenge seriously.

Oh, and for the meaning of guanocephalopathy, read some other suggestions here.

March 20, 2010

Who (or what) is to blame for sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church?

This sound suspiciously like the pope is suggesting that that old bugaboo secularism lies at the root of this Irish problem! Leave it to the pope to set us all straight:

In almost every family in Ireland, there has been someone – a son or a daughter, an aunt or an uncle – who has given his or her life to the Church. Irish families rightly esteem and cherish their loved ones who have dedicated their lives to Christ, sharing the gift of faith with others, and putting that faith into action in loving service of God and neighbour.

In recent decades, however, the Church in your country has had to confront new and serious challenges to the faith arising from the rapid transformation and secularization of Irish society. Fast-paced social change has occurred, often adversely affecting people’s traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values. All too often, the sacramental and devotional practices that sustain faith and enable it to grow, such as frequent confession, daily prayer and annual retreats, were neglected. Significant too was the tendency during this period, also on the part of priests and religious, to adopt ways of thinking and assessing secular realities without sufficient reference to the Gospel. The programme of renewal proposed by the Second Vatican Council was sometimes misinterpreted and indeed, in the light of the profound social changes that were taking place, it was far from easy to know how best to implement it. In particular, there was a well-intentioned but misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches to canonically irregular situations.

It is in this overall context that we must try to understand the disturbing problem of child sexual abuse.

How refreshing it is to see that the Vatican has taken on its fair share of the responsibility. Oh, that’s right; it is blameless, of course. Silly me. Why should senior leadership in any organization take any responsibility whatsoever for the actions taken under its policies and procedures, right? It’s not like the two are associated in any way if the effect of those policies and procedures is negative; that’s always the fault of middle management… which helps explain why, after all, this whole Irish problem of sex abuse brought about by rapid secularization  is obviously a problem for Irish catholic churches to overcome their failure.

Good grief.

March 14, 2010

What’s this about the Pope housing a sexual predator?

Filed under: abuse,Catholic Church,child abuse,Conspiracy,Sex scandal,Vatican — tildeb @ 4:35 pm

Monsignor Charles Scicluna is the Vatican official in charge of prosecuting priests alleged to have committed serious sexual crimes. Isn’t that swell? The Vatican is now going to do something about this problem.

But wait. The pope housed a serial child abuser for years and reassigned that same abuser to another church where he spent more years abusing kids? Say it ain’t so!

“It’s true that there has been no formal condemnation,” Monsignor Scicluna said, adding: “It must be made absolutely clear that in these cases, some of which are particularly sensational and have caught the attention of the media, no absolution has taken place.”

Well, no absolution really is the key point here.

He also addressed accusations that the Vatican was obstructing justice by hiding reports of abuse, saying that

“secrecy during the investigative phase served to protect the good name of all the people involved; first and foremost, the victims themselves, then the accused priests who have the right — as everyone does — to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty”.

But he said Church secrecy had

“never been understood as a ban on denouncing the crimes to the civil authorities”.

No indeed. No ban at all. The officially approved Vatican directive by Ratzinger for both victims and those accused to stay silent on pain of excommunication can hardly be considered a “ban,” now can it? The church simply has no problem whatsoever with senior people like the pope when he was cardinal of Munich and Grafing house a serial offender for two and half years for highly effective ‘therapy’ who was then appointed by this same cardinal who now just so happens to be pope to serve as a priest in Grafing for an additional three years abusing more kids! What’s the big deal? It’s not like it’s the pope directly aids and abets child rapists.

No, no no. Let’s be very clear: the real problem here is “those who have tried, with a certain aggressive persistence, in Regensburg and Munich, to look for elements to personally involve the Holy Father in the matter of abuses.” he said.

It is those who are asking hard questions (and finding evidence) – of collusion between the institution we call the Church, its executives, and its agents who committed sexual crimes against children – is the real problem here… not the crimes that were committed nor the parties that aided and abetted in the cover-up of those crimes. Got it.

But perhaps we should suspect that when the Vatican’s prosecuting official is the same person defending the Grand Pooh Bahs from responsibility from their executive decisions and actions, then we have a conflict of interest. Although I am sure that the Church and all its leadership is absolutely blameless in allowing centuries of historical child abuse and sexual crimes to be committed by thousands of its priests and deacons and sisters, it borders on the miraculous that there was so little the church could do to stop the abuse and bring these criminals to justice. This must be another one of those Great Mysteries used to explain how god works through the catholic church in our world.

So we should all be good little catholics and stop asking hard questions and let the Grand Pooh Bahs do what they do best: remain perfect and blameless in all things.

December 21, 2009

What are the tell-tale signs of someone promoting a conspiracy theory?

Many of us, of course, are not believers but simply find ourselves confronted at a dinner party by the man who just knows the “real story,” and has arrived armed with his killer facts and certainty. You on the other hand, have nothing but your instinct for nonsense. So, for everyone who has been, or will be, in that woeful position, I offer this short guide to how conspiracy theories work, the better to rebut them. (From the article here, I summarize the following)

These are the characteristics that help conspiracy theorists convince otherwise intelligent people of deeply unintelligent things.

1) Appeal to precedence… it’s happened before so it can happen again!

2) Self-heroization… part of a brave insurgency against a corrupt elite or a stifling orthodoxy

3) Contempt for the foolish masses… unlike the majority who are ‘robots’ and ‘sheep’, the conspiracy buff is individually in possession of an unusual and perceptive way of looking at things.

4) A willingness to ask questions… in which the theorist is “only asking questions” about the official version of the truth.

5) Respecting the experts… notably inflating the status and expertise of anyone who agrees with the conspiratorialists.

6) Death by footnote… the use of apparently scholarly ways of laying out arguments while cross-citing other conspiracy advocates.

7) techno-jargon… liberal use of strange words that give the appearance of recent contact of spies, generals or scientists in the know.

8) circularity in logic… embarrassing and obvious problems in the theory may be ascribed to deliberate disinformation originating with the imagined plotters designed to throw activists off the scent.

9) the hydra factor… if one tackles one particular claim, it simply doesn’t count: another claim is immediately brought to the fore in an endless chain of ‘mounting’ evidence.

10) the danger of telling the ‘truth’… shadowy powers threaten the bold conspiracy supporters without ever actually harming them.

December 16, 2009

Are the US military’s christian commanders intentionally subverting the Constitution’s First Ammendment?

The short answer is yes.

From the Hitch:

As I was making ready to depart, and checking my e-mail, I found I had been sent a near-incredible video clip from the Al Jazeera network. It had been shot at Bagram Air Force Base last year, and it showed a borderline-hysterical address by one Lieutenant Colonel Gary Hensley, chief of the United States’ military chaplains in Afghanistan. He was telling his evangelical audience, all of them wearing uniforms supplied by the taxpayer, that as followers of Jesus Christ they had a collective responsibility “to be witnesses for him.” Heating up this theme, Lieutenant Colonel Hensley went on: “The Special Forces guys, they hunt men, basically. We do the same things, as Christians. We hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down. Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them in the kingdom. Right? That’s what we do, that’s our business.”

Stacks of Bibles are on display, in the Dari and Pashto tongues that are the main languages in Afghanistan. A certain Sergeant James Watt, a candidate for a military chaplaincy, is shown giving thanks for the work of his back-home church, which subscribed the dough. “I also want to praise God because my church collected some money to get Bibles for Afghanistan. In another segment, those present show quite clearly that they understand they are in danger of violating General Order Number One of the U.S. Central Command, which explicitly prohibits “proselytizing of any religion, faith, or practice.”

And there is ever stronger reason to think that, at the Pentagon, the fish rots from the head. More alarming still is a book called Under Orders: A Spiritual Handbook for Military Personnel, by an air-force lieutenant colonel named William McCoy, publicity for which describes the separation of church and state as a “twisted idea.” Nor is this the book’s only publicity: it comes—with its direct call for a religion-based military—with an endorsement from General David Petraeus.

James Madison was the co-author with Thomas Jefferson of the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom, which became the basis of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Not accidentally the first clause of our Bill of Rights, this amendment unambiguously forbids any “establishment of religion” in or by these United States. In his “Detached Memoranda,” not published until after his death, Madison even wrote that the appointment of chaplains in the armed forces, and indeed in Congress, was “inconsistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principles of religious freedom.” He could never have foreseen a time when state-subsidized chaplains would be working to subvert the Constitution, and violating their sacred oath to uphold it. Let us be highly thankful that we have young soldiers and sailors and air-force personnel who, busy and devoted as they already are, show themselves brave enough to fight back on this front too.

From the Vanity Fair article here.

November 26, 2009

More evidence that if morality comes from God, religion is good at blocking it out.

Count ’em: four arch-bishops covered up and colluded with perverts to protect immorality.

The commission found that three archbishops of Dublin — John Charles McQuaid (1940-72), Dermot Ryan (1972-84) and Kevin McNamara (1985-87) — did not tell police about clerical abuse cases, instead opting to avoid public scandals by shuttling offenders from parish to parish.

It was not until 1995, seven years into his reign, that then archbishop Connell allowed police to see church files on 17 clerical abuse cases. The documents were kept in a secret, locked vault in the archbishop’s Dublin residence.

Full article is here.

What jolly good fellows, these arch-bishops, looking out to keep the stream open for the toddlers and youngsters to be fed to a bunch of pedophiles and child rapists. It takes a special kind of belief to do so much horrendous wrong against innocents, but the Catholic church seems particularly able to maintain a sustained attack against, what just about any atheist knows to be, common morality, namely, to look out for and do whatever is necessary to protect children from abuse.  But not these arch-bishops; the welfare of Mother Church to avoid scandal is more important to these dress-wearing, supposedly celibate, guys than the welfare of children within its congregations.

How any moral person can continue to support this thoroughly discredited institution and look up rather than down to it on its moral track record is indeed a mystery of biblical proportions. It requires faith to replace such stark evidence to the contrary, and willful moral blindness to maintain such faith in spite of such very real pain and suffering caused by the people in positions of authority within this institution. Yet people do maintain faith in the institution, do continue to grant wisdom to these same people in positions of authority within it, and do continue to support the institution that does continue to cause harm and suffering throughout the world.

And everyone is supposed to be tolerant of that misguided, misplaced, misapplied allegiance because it falls under the name of religion. In fact, we are supposed to respect that allegiance and, to add insult to injury, continue to assume in spite of all evidence to the contrary that morality itself can be found through its doors. But how can any self-respecting person with an ounce if intellectual integrity actually go along with this bullshit? Something is wrong in the thinking pattern of the RC supporter and this thinking deserves our collective criticism, ridicule, disdain, and intolerance to any meddling by any of its agents of this institution on questions of morality within the public domain.

November 21, 2009

Christian Science therapies: the conspiracy behind paying for prayer revealed

Backed by some of the most powerful members of the Senate, a little-noticed provision in the healthcare overhaul bill would require insurers to consider covering Christian Science prayer treatments as medical expenses.

Senator Harkin, says

“It is time to end the discrimination against alternative health care practices.”

“This is about giving people the pragmatic alternatives they want, while ending discrimination against practitioners of scientifically based alternative health care. It is about improving health care outcomes. And, yes, it is about reducing health care costs. Generally speaking, alternative therapies are less expensive and less intrusive – and we need to take advantage of that.”

Why would the government want to make sure prayer could be reimbursed as form of medical intervention? Surely our elected representative would not pander to their constituents? That would be beyond the pale.  There must be a deeper, more sinister, reason.  And I remember: dead people cost no money.

The application of Christian Scientology, er, no, it must be Christian Scientist therapies has well documented effects upon the Christian Science population. And those effects are not beneficial to anyone who is not a mortician.

For example, in 1989 JAMA published a cohort study (Yes, I know from the last post that cohort studies prove nothing nothing nothing, but I am uncertain how one would apply Christian Science in a randomized, placebo controled, double blinded manner).

They looked at outcomes in 5,500 Christian Scientists and compared them to a group of almost 30,000 controls using conventional medicine.

For each age group from 1934 to 1983, there was a greater death rate in the Christian Scientists when compared to the control population, a difference made more remarkable as Christian Scientists neither smoke nor drink.

So the real conspiracy (how’s that for an oxymoron) is that the US government wants to save health care dollars by recognizing and legitimizing complimentary and alternative medical procedures and therapies. Why? To kill you! Now there’s a death panel!

The complete article can be read here.

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